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30 August 2007
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I Saved Three Lives

Two medium, one large.  The frogs the ones I saved.  I was swimming in my pool one day last week and found myself nose to nose with a medium-sized, very live frog.  I rescued him from the pool, which is hard to exit (for frogs) due to a peripheral lip, and put him in the frog pond.  The next day the same thing happened.  Being slightly smarter than I look, on the third day I scrutinized the pool before entering, and sure enough, this time there was a large frog in the same perilous situation.  Again, rescue, transportation, release, relief.  These are not the first frogs rescued here, and I have no photos of them.  I do have (somewhere) an underwater camera, but I don't take it into the pool under normal circumstances.  I can't explain why, after a frog-free summer, they suddenly appeared on three successive days, but my activities on their behalf I'm sure increased my frogma.

Nuclear Weapon Safety Features

In the 29 August issue of the Wall Street Journal there appeared an "op-ed" piece by one Linton Brooks, who was touting the benefits of the "Reliable Replacement Warhead."  The writer was described thus:

Mr. Brooks negotiated the START I Treaty in 1991 and was a senior arms control and nonproliferation official in five agencies within the U.S. government. From 2002 to 2007 he was the administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration.

Assuming this isn't some prank and there actually is a "National Nuclear Security Administration," Mr. Brooks would seem to be well credentialed.  Brooks made a number of points about the value of replacing our aging nuclear arsenal with a newly-designed weapon, the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW).  I more often then not agree with WSJ op-ed pieces, but the whole purpose of these editorial features is to propound some theory, scheme, or manifesto, and their entertainment value for me is to try to separate their advocacy from their accuracy.  As I was reading his generally well-taken points, I came across this one:

Finally, the RRW will allow us to deploy weapons that are safer to make and to store for people and the environment and also less susceptible to theft or misuse by terrorists. For example, the new warhead will not use beryllium, a poisonous metal used in the current weapons.

Isn't that comforting?  The purpose of each of the RRWs is to potentially incinerate, fry, fricassee, or roast hundreds of thousands or millions of people, yet he boasts that they have somehow managed to remove the few ounces of the "poisonous metal" beryllium from the manufacturing process.  Even worse, he has maligned an element!  Beryllium metal is not all that toxic, and most people can handle it safely, although a small percentage are allergic.  Beryllium dust and beryllium oxide dust are indeed toxic, although if one is close enough to a fission reaction to be exposed to any remanent particulate beryllium, that is the least of his problems.

Even so, we shouldn't denigrate this valuable safety feature.  I understand that there is also a movement afoot to replace all the electric chairs in state execution chambers.  Apparently some of the older ones had lead paint on the armrests.  Along the same lines, the new protocol for lethal injections emphasizes the necessity for swabbing the injection site with alcohol to assure sanitary conditions before the drugs are administered.


Follow-Up 09 Sept. 2007

Four Lives.  After more than a full, frog-free week, I rescued another (medium-small) frog from the pool skimmer.  He wasn't terribly lively and seemed a bit etiolated, perhaps due to the concentration of chlorine.  But he had some spirit left and I felt he could be deposited in the frog pond without an intervening trip to the hopital.


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